The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle
By Sofia Samatar
This story is at least a thousand years old. Its complete title is “The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle: It Contains Strange and Marvelous Things.” A single copy, probably produced in Egypt or Syria, survives in Istanbul; the first English translation appeared in 2015. This is not the right way to start a fairy tale, but it’s better than sitting here in silence waiting for Mahliya, who takes forever to get ready. She’s upstairs staining her cheeks with antimony, her lips with a lipstick called Black Sauce. Vainest crone in Cairo.
She leaves her window open for the birds to fly in and out. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the bigger ones thump their wings against the sash. The most famous, of course, is the flying featherless ostrich. A monstrous creature, like something boiled. Mahliya adores it. She lets it eat out of her mouth. (Continue Reading…)